The New York Rangers have a mix of proven veterans and interesting young players and it will be interesting to see how they are deployed under a new coach, Alain Vigneault, who has established his tendency to start his best scorers more frequently in the offensive zone.
Top Picks: There are no sure things when it comes to goaltending, with fluctuations from year to year in many cases, but Rangers G Henrik Lundqvist is pretty close to being a safe selection. Over the last four seasons, Lundqvist has a .924 save percentage and the only goaltender to play at least 25 games and record a save percentage over .920 in all four years.
RW Rick Nash can take some heat for his playoff performance, when he scored one goal and five points in 12 games, but his 0.95 points per game during the regular season was his second-best in the last seven years and was a career-best plus-16 in 44 games. Since 2003-2004, Nash has scored 293 goals, ranking fifth, and he's still just 29-years-old, so he fits as a top-five right winger, likely going in the first couple rounds of most drafts.
Coming off a breakout season, in which he scored 44 points in 48 games, C Derek Stepan is still looking for a new contract, but presuming that he gets into the Rangers' lineup, the 23-year-old has to be considered a valuable fantasy commodity. In the last three seasons, Stepan is one of 15 forwards to have 140 points and a plus-40 rating and he's just hitting his prime.
Captain Ryan Callahan has scored 109 goals over the last five seasons, ranking 46th, and is perennially among the league leaders in hits, but he's also recovering from off-season shoulder surgery and is not expected to be ready for the start of the season.
In three seasons (well, 169 games) D Ryan McDonagh is one of five defencemen to have at least 50 points and a plus-50 rating. Even if he's not a huge scorer, as a No. 3 fantasy defencemen, he's a fine option.
With a little more offence to his game, D Michael Del Zotto has 62 points over the last two seasons, ranking 21st among defencemen. Again, as a No. 3 defenceman, he offers good value.
Value Plays: Much-maligned for his playoff performance, when he was a healthy scratch with the Rangers' season on the line, C Brad Richards is looking for a fresh start with a new coach and while the 33-year-old isn't likely to return to point-per-game scoring, he can do better than the career-low 0.74 points per game he had last season.
As a high-end No. 3 centre, Richards could be a savvy pick.
LW Carl Hagelin has been an effective complementary scorer in his first two NHL seasons, scoring 62 points in 112 games but, like Callahan, he's recovering from offseason shoulder surgery and isn't expected to be ready for the start of the season. However, once he's healthy, Hagelin is a good bet to have a spot in the top six.
The Rangers have a couple more defencemen that can provide value, in large part because they play so much. Dan Girardi has topped out at 31 points in a season, yet he's a valuable blueliner in leagues that count hits and blocked shots since he's recorded 686 hits and 726 blocks over the last four seasons.
Marc Staal's career-high is 29 points and he's coming off a serious eye injury, but if he's playing 24 minutes a night, as he was before getting hurt, he could be productive enough to have fantasy value.
Sleepers/Breakthrough: After arriving in New York last season, as part of the return for Marian Gaborik, Derick Brassard scored 23 points in 25 (regular season plus playoff) games, a decided improvement on several seasons of disappointing production in Columbus. If he gets utilized with offensive linemates -- not easy with Stepan and Richards on the depth chart -- Brassard could push for a career-best season.
LW Mats Zuccarello
returned to the Rangers following a season in the KHL, tallying 15 points in 27 (regular season plus playoff) games. With Hagelin out to start the year, that could be the opening that Zuccarello needs to secure a spot on a scoring line right from the start.
Rookies: LW Chris Kreider is full of potential, even if his 2012-2013 season was a bit of a bust with 23 points in 48 AHL games and three points in 23 games with the Rangers. Kreider will have a new opportunity to earn more playing time and if he uses his size and speed, he could be a productive complementary winger.
The Rangers also have Swedish forwards Oscar Lindberg and Jesper Fasth and Danny Kristo, acquired from Montreal, as prospects that could earn their way into a regular spot in the lineup, but they won't have value until they arrive.
Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@bellmedia.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen. For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook.